Chapter 1 - The Competition
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the Harry Potter characters, plots or stories.
As per usual, the buzz in the Great Hall was immense, and intensified by the long months of absence. Students milled around in large groups, calling out to friends they hadn’t seen over the summer and introducing new ones that had passed the years undetected. Younger students crowed excitedly about moving up in the ranks as seventh years strutted around importantly, surveying the room with more mature eyes than they had the year before.
For most of the seventh years it was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying to be arriving into the Great Hall for their last year. All of them were eager to get through to the real world, but deserting the haven they had enjoyed for the past seven years was somewhat nerve-wracking. None of them had any idea what was to come in their lives post-Hogwarts, but many were eager to find out. For the time being however, most were content to live up to their seventh year status and make the most of their last year.
The summer holidays had a tendency of bringing out the best of people upon their return to Hogwarts. Most students looked better and felt ready to start the school year. It was interesting to see everyone again; they always seemed to change since the end of last year.
Ron had grown—again. He certainly looked (almost) 18, and many girls were surprised to find he wasn’t the tall, gangly, red-headed first year he used to be, but a handsome adult—and it was safe to say that being goal-keeper in Quidditch had worked out quite well for him. He was getting quite a few looks from some of the girls. Ron however didn’t seem to notice the gawking of his peers because he was quite intently focused on his best friend Harry who happened to be holding the hand of his one and only little sister.
Harry, for his part, didn’t seem to notice his friend’s frustrations as he was finding it increasingly difficult to tear his gaze from Ginny, much to Ron’s annoyance. To everyone else who wasn’t related to one of them, it was cute to see how in love they were, and however many times Ron gave them a bad look, it didn’t seem to faze them one bit. They had been doing it all summer, and they certainly weren’t going to stop now.
Hermione sighed; wishing someone would look at her like Harry was looking at Ginny. The summer had been long and hot, and Hermione was sad to note that there hadn’t been much change in her own appearance. She was confident enough to admit that she wasn’t ugly, but she wasn’t vain enough to overlook some of her obvious faults. She wasn’t the prettiest in her year but there was something about her that seemed to captivate people. It was almost as if the years of studying had paid off and blessed her with an almost intelligent boldness to her face that brought out her previously-bland facial features. It wasn’t often that someone noticed this somewhat appealing trait however as people tended to focus their energies on the things she did rather than the girl she had become.
Sitting down, Hermione was greeted by several of her old friends. Dean Thomas and Seamus both waved hello to her and several heads nodded in her direction. After having been a Gryffindor for seven years now, she had grown fairly used to the inhabitants and was proud to say that she was on good footing with everyone
Hermione glanced around, as if to make sure she had greeted everyone appropriately before sitting between Ron and Harry. Harry however, was situated so that his back was to Hermione so that he could face Ginny and Ron was doing a terrible job of ignoring the couple altogether.
“So, what you think this is about?” Ron wondered aloud, turning to Hermione for clarification, as if she would know why McGonagall had called a meeting for the sixth and seven years. Hermione leaned in, preparing to tell Ron that his guess was as good as hers, when McGonagall approached the platform.
McGonagall, as well as Dumbledore before her, had the uncanny ability to silence a room by simply standing up or uttering a single word. It was as if she didn’t need words to give a distinct impression of her superiority—her presence alone was enough. It was the kind of control Hermione wished she would someday be able to acquire and had always admired the woman for it.
“Good evening to you all and welcome back,” she began curtly, addressing all necessary platitudes before continuing with her purpose, “As you all know, there is only a short time left before you all leave Hogwarts in search of greater things.” McGonagall’s voice was calm, and although she spoke with a normal tone, everyone in the hall could hear her clearly.
“With this is mind, we have decided that instead of the usual 6 week course we provide on getting to know Muggle world life skills, we have decided to make things more,” McGonagall paused, “interesting.” She glanced over to the Slytherin tables where it was apparent everyone was doing their best to ignore her.
“The staff feels that given the circumstances you will most likely face once out of Hogwarts, it is important for you to know how to live with Muggles surrounding you in everyday life, so it is vital that Hogwarts gives you some kind of perspective to this way of living.”
There was some obvious muttering of disapproval from the Slytherin table. To Hermione, it seemed as if they had any association with Muggles, it would kill them.
“But to make it more interesting as well as to make sure that the task is carried out to completion,” a quick glance to the Slytherin table made it clear who exactly this was directed at, “we have decided to make this course into a competition.”
When everybody heard the word competition, people started to mutter to their friends and the room was generally a lot more interested and excited than before. It had an effect on people, as soon as something became a race, or the chance of being better than someone else, everyone was drawn in to this prospect. Nice one, Hermione couldn’t help but think.
“This year, we thought to give you a practical course, which is also more likely something that you won’t forget as easily and although the Hogwarts course is successful there’s nothing like trying it hands-on. So, everyone will be assigned a partner and will be sent to a Muggle environment for three weeks.”
There was a stunned silence as Minerva continued.
“Each pair must use the least amount of magic as possible to try and enrich your knowledge on the area. You will be expected to gain a few Muggle friends, and be successful at a Muggle job, which we will assign to you appropriately. The winners will get 5000 galleons each.”
The students, who had all been incredulously silent, now exploded in cheers and laughter, but before they could talk to one another, McGonagall continued.
“We have also taken into account that some of you have had more contact with the Muggle world than others, so to accommodate that, each couple have the equal amount of exposure to their previous interaction with Muggles, to make it fairer.”
Hermione was extremely excited, along with Harry, because they had both grown up in a Muggle environment, meaning they would have a bigger chance of success. Ron however, was looking rather gloomy.
“We have already sorted out the partners, and you will be leaving tonight to your new location.”
Excitement pulsated through the room, everyone hoping to win and eager to participate. Even the Slytherins looked eager, although it was probably more to do with the significant prize money as opposed to the actual learning experience.
Not to mention the fact that it was a great excuse to mess around for three weeks.
McGonagall didn’t seem to notice the green-eyed students though, as she had already started to read out the names of the partners and fund them appropriately, with £500, keys to their new home, a map to their location, and a handbook for how to live with Muggles—with a few additional notes on the rules inside the book.
Then, each couple would leave the Great Hall, and spend their last remaining hours at Hogwarts packing their bags, going over the rules, and eagerly awaiting 9:00pm, when they would be given their tickets to their destination—by airplane.
“Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley,” McGonagall called out, eliciting a furious groan from Ron, but Harry and Ginny didn’t seem to notice or even care about this. They were too busy going up to receive their dues, leaving Ron to moan about the fact that his little sister was staying with her boyfriend 3 weeks, without his supervision.
Hermione however knew they were going to have a great time and found herself smiling at her friends’ enthusiasm. She knew it was a logical decision too. Harry, like her, had grown up without knowing anything about the wizarding world, and was raised basically, as a muggle. Ginny was a pure-blood, and had known what magic was her whole life.
Hermione crossed her fingers, hoping she got as lucky.
Little by little the Great Hall began to filter out as more and more people got paired off. Soon, Hermione was one of the last people remaining and her choices were rather slim. What felt like an eternity, but in fact was just a few minutes later, McGonagall paused before calling out her last pair.
“Hermione Granger and—,”
Hermione closed her eyes, praying for anyone but—
Authors Note: Hey everyone! This is my first fic out on HPFF, so please be nice! Tell me what you think ... and most importantly:
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